Robert Taibbi, LCSW
Let’s be frank
– maybe folks only think about couple therapy when they are on the ropes – the big fight on Saturday that got out of control, talk about divorce, someone actually moving out. The last-ditch effort, the saying we tried, the playing of divorce court to have the counselor decide who is right and wrong, who has the problem and who really has the problem.
But couple therapy has other shorter, more positive experiences to offer couples who are willing to stick their toes in the therapeutic waters. Here are a few of them:
Learn better communication skills.
So one of you is hesitant to bring things up. You start a conversation and you’re both back at Christmas 2010 again. Conversations quickly ramp up and someone stomps out.
Communication is a skill like…cooking or electrical wiring. It’s about knowing what to do when and there are guidelines on how to do it best. A therapist can help you stay on task, keep your cool, find the courage to speak up and mop up if things go awry. Go for a few sessions to get the basics or fix the trouble spots.
Help you make a big decision.
Deciding whether or not to have a baby? Move to Chicago? Change careers? A therapist isn’t going to tell what you to do, but as the outsider can ask the hard questions that you might be afraid to ask yourself, help you drill down into the problem behind your possible solutions, can stir the pot, track the emotions, and watch the communication so that what needs to get said or talked about in fact does.
Provide a safe place to talk.
So maybe you have the communication skills, but there’s something – about closeness, about your past, about something that really bothers you – that’s just too difficult to get out one-on-one. Here the therapist can be a supporter, someone to watch and make sure that whatever worries you have about the other person’s reactions can be addressed in a calm way. Old obstacles in the middle of the relationship road can finally get pushed to the side.
Help you see the bigger picture
. It’s all too easy in our everyday lives to get tunnel vision, to go on autopilot, to lose perspective. A few sessions of couple therapy can help you step back and see the bigger picture of the relationship. It may be how much you have both changed over the years, about your visions of the future, about the patterns between you that work and those that don’t. Again, the therapist with her orientation, her outsiderness, her ability to ask the hard questions that you might not have thought of can help you walk out with a different point of view than when you walked in.
Get a check-up.
Just as you go to the doctor for an annual physical to make sure you’re in shape, you can use periodic therapy sessions in the same way – as an opportunity to take stock, see what adjustments, if any need to be made.
So don’t be scared and don’t wait for the crisis to try this out. Be proactive. If you’re worried about getting snagged into something that you’ll have a hard time getting out of, shop around and be clear with the therapist a the start what you want to do and how much you’re willing to invest.
After all, it’s your therapy.